Plan to cover car parks and stadia in PV ‘solar cloth’
A “solar cloth” that won an award for the best solar innovation of 2014 could soon be installed over 27,000 car parking spaces, according to its inventor, The Solar Cloth Company.
The lightweight and flexible material, developed in conjunction with the University of Cambridge and several other European universities, incorporates a layer of thin-film PV (TFPV) and weighs around a fifth of conventional crystalline silicon-based solar panels, at 3.3kg per sq m, compared to between 16kg and 22kg per sq m.
It is designed to unlock sites not suitable for conventional solar panels, particularly non load-bearing roofs on supermarkets, warehouses, datacentres, or stadiums.
Earlier this month the invention was awarded the UK Solar Industry Award for best building-integrated photovoltaic innovation for its test installation on a roof of a carport in Cambridge.
Now the start-up company’s founder, Perry Carroll, says the firm is “closing in on deals” to install the system across 27,000 car parking spaces and to run a pilot with “one of the UK’s biggest retailers” from January, according to a report on the BusinessGreen website.
Carroll said: “We have built a growing sales pipeline worth £4.2m for 2015, including park and ride projects, airport parking operators and retail park owners.”
The Solar Cloth Company estimates there is 350 million sq m of car parking space in the UK
The flexible nature of Solar Cloth makes it suitable to be laid over all types of surfaces or even bonded onto structural fabrics, such as that used to construct the Millennium Dome, aka the O2 Arena.
The Solar Cloth Company estimates there is around 830 million sq m of commercial roof space and 350 million sq m of car parking space in the UK which, if covered with solar panels, could produce enough power to feed the UK’s national grid three times over.
It is also seeking £750,000 in crowdfunding investment via Crowdcube to scale-up its commercial operations and meet market demand.
Following the announcement of the UK Solar Industry Award, Carroll said: “The applications of thin flexible photovoltaics is tremendous – from commercial installations, to clothing and other tensile structures. For example, there is over 1.1 billion sq m of commercial roofing space in the UK, which is a huge amount of space that is perfect for our flexible solar panels. In a market where the adoption of traditional solar panels has stalled, TFPVs present a tremendous opportunity to integrate solar panels elegantly in areas that were previously impossible.”
Solar Cloth was also recently named as a winner of the Royal Bank of Scotland Innovation Gateway 2014, which awards “green” solutions for energy, water and waste.
And the firm was also named a finalist in the Cleantech Innovate 2015 competition, backed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), to find the most scalable and investible cleantech company.
Ministers recently called on the solar industry to focus on large rooftop developments instead of ground-mounted solar farms, arguing that installations on supermarket and office rooftops represent a more efficient use of space.
However, solar industry experts have warned that current levels of subsidy support are insufficient to drive widespread adoption of large-scale solar rooftops.